Time is not fixed. According to mundane
truth—speaking of it from the point of view of worldly
dharmas—everything exists. But in terms of the real truth, everything
is empty. Nothing is indestructible; nothing lasts forever. As to time,
there is no past, present, or future. As it is said, “Past thought
cannot be grasped; present thought cannot be grasped; and future
thought cannot be grasped.” Since the three periods of time cannot be
grasped, time is also nonexistent.
For fifty small eons, Shakyamuni Buddha remained
seated in silence, and the four assemblies—the Bhikshus, the
Bhikshunis, the Upasakas, and the Upasikas—were silent for fifty small
eons as well.
Because of the Buddha’s spiritual power, the
strength of his spiritual penetrations, all in the great assembly were
caused to say it had been as if half a day long. Although it seemed
like half a day, more than fifty small eons had passed. Although it had
been fifty small eons, it seemed like half a day’s time. Most people
had that impression.
that time the four assemblies were also able, because of the Buddha’s
spiritual power, to see all the Bodhisattvas completely filling the
empty space of limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions
At that time the four assemblies of Bhikshu
Sanghans, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas were also able, because of
the Buddha’s spiritual power, to see all the Bodhisattvas completely
filling the empty space. How many were there? They filled up limitless
hundreds of thousands of myriads of lands. How many Bodhisattvas were
there altogether? No one could know.
Speaking about the relativity of time, a day and a
night in the Heaven of the Four Kings, the heaven we can see above us,
is equal to fifty years in the human realm. The gods there live for
five hundred years, so you can figure out how much time that is in
In the Heaven of the Thirty-three, a day and a
night is one hundred human years, and the gods live for a thousand
When the Buddha was in the world, a believer in an
externalist way once challenged Venerable Mahakatyayana, saying, “I
don’t believe in rebirth. If it’s true that there is rebirth, then why
hasn’t anyone who has died ever sent a message back to tell us about
Mahakatyayana said, “Let’s take the example of a
prisoner who has been put in jail. Is he free to send a letter home?”
“No,” said the nonbeliever.
“People in hell are even less free to
communicate,” said Mahakatyayana.
“Well, what about the people in heaven? They’re
free,” said the nonbeliever.
The Venerable One answered him, saying, “One day
and night in the heavens equals fifty years on earth. Two days equal a
hundred years in the human realm. Once they arrive there, first day
they want to rest. The second day they want to get settled in, unpack
their bags, make the bed, and rearrange the furniture. By the third day
in heaven, they might think about sending you a letter, but you will
already be dead. That’s because if they were to come back three days
later, a hundred and fifty years in the human realm would have passed.
How would you be able to see them?”
The externalist had no answer.
Therefore, time in the heavens and time on earth
are experienced differently. A day and night on earth is equal to five
hundred years in the hells. You should not be attached to time. Time is
basically empty. People create their concept of time, but time itself
does not exist. Its very substance is empty. Since it has no
self-nature, no substance of its own, why be attached to a definite and
fixed idea of time?
To be continued